The Opium General and Other Stories

by Michael Moorcock
Release date: 1984
Type: speculative fiction
Genres: science fiction, non-fiction, short stories

Contents:

  • Introduction
  • The Alchemist's Question (1984)
  • The Opium General (1984)
  • Going to Canada (1980)
  • Leaving Pasedena (1980)
  • Crossing into Cambodia (1979)
  • Starship Stormtroopers (an essay) (1978)
  • Nestor Makhno (an essay) (1982)
  • Who'll be Next? (an essay) (1984)

This is a collection of Michael Moorcock's most ambitious recent fiction, the majority of which has never previously been published and none of which has previously appeared in hardcover.

The Alchemist's Question is a complete novel – the final Jerry Cornelius story which Moorcock has been promising his readers for some time. In it he re-examines the main themes of the Cornelius novels and features all the surviving characters. The sinister politician/scientist Miss Brunner; her henchman and promoter of heroin consumption Bishop Beesley and his daughter Mitzi. They have decided, through their usual bizarre logic, that the best thing that can happen to England is for them to bring on the nuclear winter as quickly as possible.

Trying to stop them are Jerry himself, his sister Catherine, her lover Una Persson and the amiable but bewildered ex-Indian Army soldier Major Nye. But Miss Brunner has the upper hand and things look bad for the human race right up to the finale when our heroes make their last stand against her on Glastonbury Tor. As in his other Cornelius books Moorcock mixes farce and sharp political satire to make some telling points about today's most urgent problems feminism, racialism, imperialism and the Third World War.

The Opium General is the story of a young woman who has fallen in love with an ex-rock star turned drug dealer. The last group of stories, Going to Canada, Leaving Pasadena and Crossing into Cambodia, are told in the first person by a Russian KGB agent describing the gradual build-up to World War.

In all these stories Moorcock is writing about personal responsibility, how the 'little cruelties' we perpetrate in our day-to-day lives reject, and indeed help create, the conditions which could some day destroy the planet. In an unusually frank introduction to the book (which also contains a kind of afterword, three short pieces of political journalism) Moorcock describes his own political position and his wholehearted support for the feminist movement.

(updated 2010-10-01)

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